One of the clearest ways to see new ideas about living with faith is when we look at each other’s faces. Even if we are not happy about being denied sharing our religious life within our church buildings due to the Covid-19 pandemic, when we share worship via Zoom we do often receive gifts from being able to see more clearly all of our faces, and especially when we offer our prayers. It is like being above and looking down on the whole congregation.
There we may see rejection, fear, hope, love, celebration and many other expressions of what lies in the hearts of the people concerned. This expresses, with authenticity, what lies in the lives of the people who are gathered there together. It often suggests to us who we might talk with if we need wisdom or help. It can also give us a stronger affirmation of the community we are creating together as we form the life of our church.
The life of Jesus Christ, the Human One, who represents God among us, is a great gift. In Christ, as Steven Shakespeare says in a prayer we shared in one Sunday Zoom service, we are given “the beauty of God’s face”. Seeing in images of Jesus Christ the beauty of God’s face brings us towards faith in a God who is fundamentally a God of love – one who forgives us when we fail and who embraces us with care when we are afraid or hurt.
Of course, there are parts of the Christian church, and sometimes within other faiths, which have a strong emphasis on a God who is primarily about judgement. Often mention is made of a God who will send us to hell if we are involved in wrong actions or beliefs, especially just before we die.
Jesus teaches us about the call of God for us to “love our neighbours as ourselves”. This God adds love to the world in multitudes of ways – in the Creation and in all sorts of relationships. One thing we don’t always notice in this calling is that we are also meant to love ourselves, confident that we will receive forgiveness and understanding.
All of this invites in us a commitment to look carefully at the faces of people with whom we relate, or who are part of the community around us. This could mean that that we are open to genuine relationships with others and that we recognise when they are concerned or grieving.
If people look peaceful or full of life, we may be encouraged to add our own positive energies to theirs in developing a more hopeful and gracious community.
If you choose to be a person of faith, it may give a view of life and of a God who strengthens hope, justice and creativity within you. You may be prepared to take risks to offer new ideas and activity into your daily life and encourage others to do the same.
Note: From November 28, the doors of South Sydney Uniting Church (SSUC) will re-open to everyone. Until then, subscribe to the SSUC eNewsletter at https://www.southsydneyuniting.org.au/ for the prayer vigil Zoom link and other details.